Indian Child Welfare Program
The objective of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation’s Indian Child Welfare program is to advocate for the requirements mandated in the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Indian child welfare acts as a liaison with courts, law enforcement and Tribal agencies.
The Seneca-Cayuga Nation Indian Child Welfare Program(ICW) proposes to provide an avenue of hope for Indian children and their families by providing direct services and coordinating resources with other agencies in attempts to prevent the break-up of Indian families. Not always is it possible to leave the family intact for the safety of the children however a higher level of “active efforts” are required by the Indian Child Welfare Act for possible reunification. The Seneca-Cayuga Nation Indian Child Welfare program also promotes the Native American culture, as well as promoting stability and security of all Indian families.
Family assistance programs through Child Protective Services will be provided to those families with Indian children in jeopardy of being removed from their parents in attempts to correct the issues that warranted the child abuse neglect (CA/N) referral being made so that the children do not have to be removed. A Protective Services case could be opened which is the children remain in the home with monitoring from a state Child Protection Specialist or a Tribal Child Protection Specialist. Services could be provided for the family to correct the unsafe circumstances in the home. If there are Seneca-Cayuga Indian children in the home, the Tribal ICW program could assist with reasonable repairs, services or items that would be required to make the home safe. Other assistance programs include drug/alcohol assessments, individual/family counseling, parenting classes as well as other services provided on a more individualized basis.
If the situation is determined to be such that the Indian children are in imminent danger and must be removed from the home, the children can be placed with appropriate kinship placement or in a foster care placement. It is important for states to attempt to meet the requirement of an ICWA compliant placement for Indian children.
If a Seneca-Cayuga child is taken into State’s custody, if both parents agree, they can request that the case be transferred to tribal court. If one parent objects to the transfer, the case cannot be moved. If the case remains in State court, it is the responsibility to notify the Tribal ICW program of ISP’s, court hearings, needs/issues with the child. ICW will monitor the case and make recommendations as to the situation, placement and services for the child. Services are based on the needs of the family and reasons why the children were removed from the home. For example, if the parent neglected the child, the parent would be referred to parenting classes, individual counseling, possibly drug/alcohol assessments. There are other services that the ICW Program can assist with while the Indian child is in Tribal or State custody such as diapers, formula, beds, clothing, educational/extra-curricular activity needs. Parents can be assisted with transportation (ie: bus passes) to help them find employement or get to counseling/doctor appointments. Again, services are individualized based on the child and family’s needs. The ICW program will not assist with legal fees or recurring living expenses such as utility bills, rent, etc. There is an exception in that assistance with these expenses could possibly happen on a one time basis with the parent being able to show that they will be able to continue to pay the expenses in the future. There are other programs through the Seneca-Cayuga Nation and other tribes such as housing and LIHEAP to help with these issues.
States will also send membership inquiries to the ICW program to determine if a child is eligible for enrollment or an enrolled Tribal member of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation. The ICW Director will send the inquiry information to the enrollment officer for verification. Once verification is received, the ICW Director will communicate the findings to the requesting State agency within 15 days.
It is the goal of the Indian Child Welfare program to reunite Indian families if all circumstances that brought the children into care are corrected. Each parent and child will have an Individualized Service Plan (ISP) that shows what services are needed. If for whatever reason, the case plan has to be changed to something other than reunification, it will be in the best interest of the child. The ultimate goal of the Indian Child Welfare Program is to provide stable permanency for the Indian child. Preference is to not break up the Indian family however there are times when the child is not able to return to parents so family and kinship placements are sought out. Preference would be that the Indian child be able to be placed with and have permanency with another member of the Indian family when able. Two common avenues of permanency are guardianship or adoption.
The Seneca-Cayuga Indian Child Welfare Program is always in search of new tribal foster homes for tribal children. The families are screened, background checks completed, home studies completed and the goal is to have all of the tribal foster homes licensed through the State of Oklahoma for payment purposes. If the Tribal foster home prefers, they can also become licensed as a therapeutic foster home.
Indian child welfare does not become involved with a family or Indian children unless they have been contacted by a state child protection agency or live on “trust” land and a referral of abuse and/or neglect has been made. The Indian Child Welfare program DOES NOT become involved in custody battles between parents or in divorce cases. It is intended for child abuse/neglect situations.